Mike Mutebi: A modern day KCCA hero unjustly painted in villain clothes

There is a bit of symmetry in the way one of Ugandan football’s most engrossing stories ended with the way it started.

Mike Mutebi’s five year reign at KCCA FC came to a surprising end on Monday.

The signs were there that a divorce was near if not inevitable, a situation similar to when he was named manager following a disappointing season under Abdallah Mubiru.

In 2015, KCCA were entangled in a paradox of where the club needed to go. Mutebi was not the top choice but as the story later unfolded, it was he who actually suggested who many thought was the favourite for the job Sam Ssimbwa to hope along for the ride.

Ssimbwa was bitterly ditched less than a year into the revamp project that was spearheaded by then KCCA Executive Director Jeniffer Musisi as Mutebi emerged to lead the club through a circus of absolute highs and over-exaggerated lows.

KCCA FC find themselves almost back to square one after arguably their most successful era orchestrated by the revolutionary Mutebi who has drawn undivided admiration from his followers but for some reason been dressed up as a villain of sorts by his critics.

Shortly after his announcement, Mutebi convened a players’ meeting and sent up to 11 of perhaps the biggest prospects at the club then packing.

Perhaps a whimper too far many argued and not surprising that one of his big final acts was wielding the axe on five of his most experienced players at the start of the season.

Not afraid to break barriers, such is the legacy of the man who has had a ‘love-hate’ relationship and divided opinion as much not only at the MTN Omondi Stadium, Lugogo but also in various newsrooms across the country.

Perhaps he may be accorded a stand at the club’s stadium to honour his achievements and legacy when redevelopment of the club’s stadium is completed four years from now.

More like the stories of Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni having mysterious abilities that were fed to us as kids, Mutebi has also been largely misunderstood.

Like air leaving a balloon, some of the misdemeanour rising from his time in management will now deflate and overtime.

He will rightfully take up his place in the hearts of KCCA fans as a true club legend as they come to terms with the dramatic twist to the end of one of the most accomplished stories in the local game.

Nonetheless, Mutebi leaves fully accomplished as he achieved what he said he would do when taking over from Abdallah Mubiru.

He broke barriers, stepped on a few hands but ultimately brought back life and swagger to the club.

Unjustly though, there has been criticism among the club’s support and witty unwillingness to give him proper credit, a lack of backing when he needed it especially in the troubled final six or seven months of his time.

KCCA won buckets of trophies under Mutebi including the CECAFA Club Championship after 40 years, three league titles, two Uganda Cups among others.

Mutebi created a new generation of stars characterised by the exceptional class of 2017, KCCA won games at continental level that were unimaginable.

It may be some time until KCCA fans experience an evening like their victory over African giants Al Ahly in August 2018, the history making victory over St. George earlier that year or even the 7-0 mauling of Onduparaka in 2017.

The club may have landed on tough times recently suffering their worst start to a season under him, but the good times were imperiously good.

Not just for the quality of performance but the overall atmosphere and how much such victories defined the club as a modern day powerhouse; that was all under Mutebi’s guard.

As long as the KCCA story goes, Mutebi sits amongst hot company and sticks out on his own as the one person who has guided the club to a league and club double in history and also completed his own domestic treble in 2018.

A mantle that will definitely remain long after he is gone and nobody can take that away from him.

What has happened this season and in recent months has raised red flags and maybe justifies the argument againt him.

Antics like the meltdown of relationships with his staff coming to near blows, missing the team bus for a trip to Mbarara City last season (a game that might have cost the club dearly in the title race) and the uncharacteristic drop off in performance.

A troubled start to the season which started with talk of Mutebi’s sacking and followed by four defeats in 15 games and a COVID-affected continental campaign was eventually the final straw in his tenure.

But all that shall pass and he will be fondly remembered when none of us are alive to give a side to the conversations.

Morley Byekwaso has been named as care taker manager with other technical staff members (many of whom are Mutebi’s trusted Generals) have stayed on now but for how long?

The storm that is expected to follow Mutebi’s exit opens a Pandora box with urgent decisions that need to be made between now and the end of the season.

Top of that will be a new manager, probably new assistants and perhaps re-invention of the scouting department at Lugogo all that in the middle of a squad rebuild.

Perhaps KCCA’s major under sight was their inaction over Mutebi’s situation even when the signs became apparent that his time at the club had reached a point of no return. But where do they go from here and how quickly do they trace their way back to the top is a question that looms large.

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